New Research Confirms That the Vikings Landed in North America 471 Years Before Columbus & Exactly 1,000 Years Ago

“We have to cel­e­brate Colum­bus because he dis­cov­ered Amer­i­ca.”
“No he didn’t. Leif Erik­son got there first.”


I para­phrase here from the halls of my ele­men­tary school cir­ca some­time in the late 20th cen­tu­ry, when many of us were con­vinced the first Euro­peans to set foot on the con­ti­nent were not the Span­ish and their bloody-mind­ed, trea­sure-seek­ing Ital­ian cap­tain, but what we thought of as bloody-mind­ed, trea­sure-seek­ing Vikings. Which side was right?

Our grade-school objec­tions to Colum­bus were not nec­es­sar­i­ly moral or intel­lec­tu­al. Most of us chose team Viking for the hel­mets (more on that lat­er). But evi­dence that Vikings land­ed in North Amer­i­ca dates back hun­dreds of years to his­tor­i­cal accounts and sagas about Leif’s father, Erik the Red. These accounts tell of a place called Vin­land, iden­ti­fied as lying some­where along the North­east­ern coast­line where the Norse found wild grapes.

In the 20th cen­tu­ry came the sug­ges­tion that Vin­land might have been locat­ed in Cana­da, at a site called L’Anse aux Mead­ows in what is now New­found­land. Between 1960 and 1968, an exca­va­tion by Nor­we­gian archae­ol­o­gist Anne Stine Ingstad and her hus­band, explor­er Helge Ingstad, found the remains of the “only con­clu­sive­ly iden­ti­fied Viking site in the Amer­i­c­as out­side of Green­land,” writes Kather­ine Kornei at The New York Times.

Eight tim­ber-framed build­ings at the site look very much like sim­i­lar struc­tures in Green­land built for Erik the Red. And yet, exact­ly when the set­tle­ment arose has been a mys­tery; “radio­car­bon mea­sure­ments of arti­facts from L’Anse aux Mead­ows span the entire Viking Age, from the late eighth through the 11th cen­turies.” That is, until new results just pub­lished in Nature which claim to have “deci­sive­ly pinned down when the Norse explor­ers were in New­found­land: the year A.D. 1021, or exact­ly 1,000 years ago.”

Sci­en­tists obtained this date from three pieces of wood late­ly unearthed from what is known as the site’s “Viking lay­er” — a stump, a log, and a branch. “These arti­facts were sig­nif­i­cant finds for two rea­sons,” notes the CBC. “One is that they showed cut marks made by met­al blades, spe­cif­ic to Vikings, not Indige­nous stone blades. The sec­ond rea­son is that all three arti­facts still had the out­er­most lay­er of the tree intact,” allow­ing archae­ol­o­gists to con­clu­sive­ly tell their age.

A host of unan­swered ques­tions remain. We can­not say for cer­tain this new data con­firms the ancient sto­ries of Vin­land or Leif Erik­son. Although the struc­tures, tools, and oth­er arti­facts at the site are unques­tion­ably Norse, researchers don’t know who, pre­cise­ly, set­tled at L’Anse aux Mead­ows, or whether it was a long-term set­tle­ment or a tem­po­rary out­post. (Evi­dence pub­lished in 2019 sug­gests that “Norse activ­i­ty at LAM may have endured for a cen­tu­ry.”)

At the top of the post, see a short explain­er from Nature show­ing not only how arche­ol­o­gists con­firmed that Vikings land­ed in North Amer­i­ca, but also how they learned exact­ly when — 471 years before Colum­bus. As for why there’s no Leif Erik­son day in the U.S.…  well, there is, it turns out — Octo­ber 9th — though no one gets a hol­i­day. And about those hel­mets? Stereo­types that first appeared in Wag­ner­ian opera.

As even video games rec­og­nize these days, the Vikings may be some of the most mis­un­der­stood peo­ples in ancient his­to­ry. Learn more about their time in New­found­land, and maybe points fur­ther south, in the episode of Amer­i­ca Unearthed from the His­to­ry Chan­nel, above, and read the Nature arti­cle on the most recent arti­facts here.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

The Sis­tine Chapel of the Ancients: Archae­ol­o­gists Dis­cov­er 8 Miles of Art Paint­ed on Rock Walls in the Ama­zon

Archae­ol­o­gists Find the Ear­li­est Work of “Abstract Art,” Dat­ing Back 73,000 Years

A 16th Cen­tu­ry “Data­base” of Every Book in the World Gets Unearthed: Dis­cov­er the Libro de los Epí­tomes Assem­bled by Christo­pher Colum­bus’ Son

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Become a Project Manager Without a College Degree with Google’s Project Management Certificate

As we first men­tioned last year, Google has launched a series of Career Cer­tifi­cate pro­grams that allow stu­dents to gain exper­tise in a field, ide­al­ly enough to start work­ing with­out a 4‑year col­lege degree. This ini­tia­tive now includes a Cer­tifi­cate in Project Man­age­ment, which con­sists of six cours­es.

  • Foun­da­tions of Project Man­age­ment
  • Project Ini­ti­a­tion: Start­ing a Suc­cess­ful Project
  • Project Plan­ning: Putting It All Togeth­er
  • Project Exe­cu­tion: Run­ning the Project
  • Agile Project Man­age­ment
  • Cap­stone: Apply­ing Project Man­age­ment in the Real World

Above, a Pro­gram Man­ag­er talks about “her path from drop­ping out of high school and earn­ing a GED, join­ing the mil­i­tary, and work­ing as a coder, to learn­ing about pro­gram man­age­ment and switch­ing into that career track.” An intro­duc­tion to the Project Man­age­ment cer­tifi­cate appears below.

The Project Man­age­ment pro­gram takes about six months to com­plete, and should cost about $250 in total. Stu­dents get charged $39 per month until they com­plete the pro­gram.

You can explore the Project Man­age­ment cer­tifi­cate here. And find oth­er Google career cer­tifi­cates in oth­er fields–e.g. UX Design and Data Ana­lyt­ics–over on this page. All Google career cours­es are host­ed on the Cours­era plat­form.

Find more online cer­tifi­cate pro­grams from an array of providers here.

Note: Open Cul­ture has a part­ner­ship with Cours­era. If read­ers enroll in cer­tain Cours­era cours­es and pro­grams, it helps sup­port Open Cul­ture.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Google Intro­duces 6‑Month Career Cer­tifi­cates, Threat­en­ing to Dis­rupt High­er Edu­ca­tion with “the Equiv­a­lent of a Four-Year Degree”

Google & Cours­era Launch Career Cer­tifi­cates That Pre­pare Stu­dents for Jobs in 6 Months: Data Ana­lyt­ics, Project Man­age­ment and UX Design

Google’s UX Design Pro­fes­sion­al Cer­tifi­cate: 7 Cours­es Will Help Pre­pare Stu­dents for an Entry-Lev­el Job in 6 Months

150 Free Online Busi­ness Cours­es

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Yale Professor Jason Stanley Identifies 10 Tactics of Fascism: The “Cult of the Leader,” Law & Order, Victimhood and More

What is fas­cism? Fas­cism is an ide­ol­o­gy devel­oped and elab­o­rat­ed in ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry West­ern Europe and enabled by tech­nol­o­gy, mass media, and weapons of war. Most of us learned the basics of that devel­op­ment from grade school his­to­ry text­books. We gen­er­al­ly came to appre­ci­ate to some degree — though we may have for­got­ten the les­son — that the phrase “creep­ing fas­cism” is redun­dant. Fas­cism stomped around in jack­boots, smashed win­dows and burned Reich­stags before it ful­ly seized pow­er, but its most impor­tant action was the creep­ing: into lan­guage, media, edu­ca­tion, and reli­gious insti­tu­tions. None of these move­ments arose, after all, with­out the sup­port (or at least acqui­es­cence) of those in pow­er.

There are dif­fer­ences between Ital­ian Fas­cism, Ger­man Nazism, and their var­i­ous nation­al­ist descen­dents. Mus­soli­ni secured pow­er chiefly through intim­i­da­tion. But once he was appoint­ed prime min­is­ter by the King in 1922 he began con­sol­i­dat­ing his dic­ta­tor­ship, a process that took sev­er­al years and required such deal­ings as the cre­ation of Vat­i­can City in 1929 to secure the Church’s good­will. Some lat­er fas­cist lead­ers, like Augus­to Pinochet, came to pow­er in coups (with the sup­port of the CIA). Oth­ers, like Hitler, won elec­tions, after a decade of “creep­ing” into the cul­ture by nor­mal­iz­ing nation­al­ist pride based on racial hier­ar­chies and nurs­ing a sense of aggriev­ed per­se­cu­tion among the Ger­man peo­ple over per­ceived humil­i­a­tions of the past.

In every case, lead­ers exploit­ed local hatreds and inflamed ordi­nary peo­ple against their neigh­bors with the con­stant rep­e­ti­tion of an alarm­ing “Big Lie” and the promis­es of a strong­man for sal­va­tion. Every sim­i­lar move­ment that has arisen since the end of WWII, says Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Pro­fes­sor of Phi­los­o­phy Jason Stan­ley in the video above, has shared these char­ac­ter­is­tics: using pro­pa­gan­da to cre­ate an alter­nate real­i­ty and pay­ing obei­sance to a “cult of the leader,” no mat­ter how repug­nant his tac­tics, behav­ior, or per­son­al­i­ty. “Right wing by nature,” fas­cis­m’s patri­ar­chal struc­ture appeals to con­ser­v­a­tives. While it mobi­lizes vio­lence against minori­ties and left­ists, it seduces those on the right by promis­ing a share of the spoils and val­i­dat­ing con­ser­v­a­tive desires for a sin­gle, uni­fy­ing nation­al nar­ra­tive:

Fas­cism is a cult of the leader. It involves the leader set­ting the rules about what’s true and false. So any kind of exper­tise, real­i­ty, all of that is a chal­lenge to the author­i­ty of the leader. If sci­ence would help him, then he can say, “Okay, I’ll use it.” Insti­tu­tions that teach mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives on his­to­ry in all its com­plex­i­ty are always a threat to the fas­cist leader. 

Rather than sim­ply destroy­ing insti­tu­tions, fas­cists twist them to their own ends. The arts, sci­ences, and human­i­ties must be purged of cor­rupt­ing ele­ments. Those who resist face job loss, exile or worse. The impor­tant thing, says Stan­ley, is the sort­ing into class­es of those who deserve life and prop­er­ty and those who don’t.

[O]nce you have hier­ar­chies set up, you can make peo­ple very ner­vous and fright­ened about los­ing their posi­tion on that hier­ar­chy. Hier­ar­chy goes right into vic­tim­hood because once you con­vince peo­ple that they’re jus­ti­fi­able high­er on the hier­ar­chy, then you can tell them that they’re vic­tims of equal­i­ty. Ger­man Chris­tians are vic­tims of Jews. White Amer­i­cans are vic­tims of Black Amer­i­can equal­i­ty. Men are vic­tims of fem­i­nism. 

The appeal to “law and order,” to police state lev­els of con­trol, only applies to cer­tain threat­en­ing class­es who need to be put back in their place or elim­i­nat­ed. It does not apply to those at the top of the hier­ar­chy, who rec­og­nize no con­straints on their actions because they per­ceive them­selves as threat­ened and in a state of emer­gency. It’s real­ly the immi­grants, left­ists, and oth­er minori­ties who have tak­en over, “and that’s why you need a real­ly macho, pow­er­ful, vio­lent response”:

Law and order struc­tures who’s legit­i­mate and who’s not. Every­where around the world, no mat­ter what the sit­u­a­tion is, in very dif­fer­ent socioe­co­nom­ic con­di­tions, the fas­cist leader comes and tells you, “Your women and chil­dren are under threat. You need a strong man to pro­tect your fam­i­lies.” They make con­ser­v­a­tives hys­ter­i­cal­ly afraid of trans­gen­der rights or homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, oth­er ways of liv­ing. These are not peo­ple try­ing to live their own lives. They’re try­ing to destroy your life, and they’re com­ing after your chil­dren. What the fas­cist politi­cian does is they take con­ser­v­a­tives who aren’t fas­cist at all, and they say, “Look, I know you might not like my ways. You might think I’m a wom­an­iz­er. You might think I’m vio­lent in my rhetoric. But you need some­one like me now. You need some­one like me ’cause homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, it isn’t just try­ing for equal­i­ty. It’s com­ing after your fam­i­ly.”

Stan­ley offers sev­er­al his­tor­i­cal exam­ples for his assess­ment of what he breaks down into a total of 10 tac­tics of fas­cism. (See an ear­li­er video here in which he dis­cuss­es 3 char­ac­ter­is­tics of the ide­ol­o­gy.) Like Umber­to Eco, who iden­ti­fied 14 char­ac­ter­is­tics of what he called “ur-fas­cism” in a 1995 essay, Stan­ley notes that “not all ter­ri­ble things are fas­cist. Fas­cism is a very par­tic­u­lar ide­o­log­i­cal struc­ture” that arose in a par­tic­u­lar time and place. But while its stat­ed aims and doc­trines are sub­ject to change accord­ing to the psy­chol­o­gy of the leader and the nation­al cul­ture, it always shares a cer­tain group­ing, or “bun­dle,” of fea­tures.

Each of these indi­vid­ual ele­ments is not in and of itself fas­cist, but you have to wor­ry when they’re all grouped togeth­er, when hon­est con­ser­v­a­tives are lured into fas­cism by peo­ple who tell them, “Look, it’s an exis­ten­tial fight. I know you don’t accept every­thing we do. You don’t accept every doc­trine. But your fam­i­ly is under threat. Your fam­i­ly is at risk. So with­out us, you’re in per­il.” Those moments are the times when we need to wor­ry about fas­cism.

Below we’re adding Stan­ley’s recent inter­view where he explains how Amer­i­ca has now entered fascism’s legal phase. You can read his relat­ed arti­cle in The Guardian.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Yale Pro­fes­sor Jason Stan­ley Iden­ti­fies Three Essen­tial Fea­tures of Fas­cism: Invok­ing a Myth­ic Past, Sow­ing Divi­sion & Attack­ing Truth

Umber­to Eco Makes a List of the 14 Com­mon Fea­tures of Fas­cism

The Sto­ry of Fas­cism: Rick Steves’ Doc­u­men­tary Helps Us Learn from the Hard Lessons of the 20th Cen­tu­ry

20,000 Amer­i­cans Hold a Pro-Nazi Ral­ly in Madi­son Square Gar­den in 1939: Chill­ing Video Re-Cap­tures a Lost Chap­ter in US His­to­ry

The Nazis’ 10 Con­trol-Freak Rules for Jazz Per­form­ers: A Strange List from World War II

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Three Hours of Yo Yo Ma Playing Bach’s Six Cello Suites: Music That “Helps Us Navigate Through Troubled Times”

“Believe it or not, this was the very first piece of music I start­ed on the cel­lo when I was four years old,” said Yo Yo Ma before play­ing the “Pre­lude” from J.S. Bach’s Unac­com­pa­nied Cel­lo Suite No. 1 for NPR’s Tiny Desk con­cert series in 2018. That same year, the world-famous cel­lo prodi­gy released his third record­ing of all six suites in an album titled Six Evo­lu­tions — Bach: Cel­lo Suites. The “two-and-a-half hours of sounds that map human­i­ty in all its tri­umphs, joys and sor­rows,” write NPR’s Mary Louise Kel­ly and Tom Huizen­ga, “has become a lodestar for the cel­e­brat­ed cel­list.”

Ma made his first record­ing of the Unac­com­pa­nied Cel­lo Suites in 1983, and won a Gram­my the fol­low­ing year. “He released anoth­er set in 1997,” a record­ing that shows the musician’s own evo­lu­tion in col­lab­o­ra­tion with “archi­tects, ice skaters and Kabu­ki artists.” But his per­for­mance of the suites has always been evo­lu­tion­ary, as a New York Times review­er not­ed of a live per­for­mance in 1991: “Cer­tain­ly soli­tary study or at most the pres­ence of a few col­leagues was the intend­ed milieu, not the vast­ness of Carnegie Hall, the pres­ence of 2,800 lis­ten­ers and the marathon for­mat of two com­plete recitals with an hour’s break between them.”

No mat­ter Bach’s inten­tions for the pieces, they have served as Ma’s musi­cal home, and he’s car­ried them with him wher­ev­er he goes, as in the full 2015 per­for­mance above at the Roy­al Albert Hall. See time stamps of the per­for­mance just below:

0:00 Intro­duc­tion
3:49 Suite I in G Major
22:25 Suite II in D Minor
42:51 Suite III in C Major — with inter­view and short break
1:13:09 Suite IV in E‑Flat Major
1:40:50 Suite V in C Minor
2:08:46 Suite VI in D Major

Here, as he had done near­ly a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry ear­li­er at Carnegie Hall, Ma not only proves that Bach’s music “trav­els well,” but he also reaf­firms his com­mit­ment to the Unac­com­pa­nied Cel­lo Suites. As he writes in the notes to Six Evo­lu­tions:

Bach’s Cel­lo Suites have been my con­stant musi­cal com­pan­ions. For almost six decades, they have giv­en me sus­te­nance, com­fort, and joy dur­ing times of stress, cel­e­bra­tion, and loss. What pow­er does this music pos­sess that even today, after three hun­dred years, it con­tin­ues to help us nav­i­gate through trou­bled times? Now that I’m in my six­ties, I real­ize that my sense of time has changed, both in life and in music, at once expand­ed and com­pressed. Music, like all of cul­ture, helps us to under­stand our envi­ron­ment, each oth­er, and our­selves. Cul­ture helps us to imag­ine a bet­ter future. Cul­ture helps turn ‘them’ into ‘us.’ And these things have nev­er been more impor­tant.

These are the prin­ci­ples upon which Ma has staked his musi­cal claim, as he now trav­els the world to deliv­er Bach to audi­ences every­where. The Bach Project aims for “36 con­certs. 36 days of action. 6 con­ti­nents,” and “1 exper­i­ment: how cul­ture con­nects us.”

Unable to trav­el in May of 2020, Ma instead played all six cel­lo suites live on tele­vi­sion at Boston’s WGBH stu­dios, live-stream­ing the broad­cast on YouTube. Now, he’s back on his trek, play­ing every­where “the same mas­ter­piece,” notes Radio Open Source, “the rarest solo per­for­mance piece that can show you infin­i­ty… an old artis­tic mas­ter­piece that’s also a mod­ern show­piece for a solo per­former who fills giant venues, East and West, indoors and out, in Chile and Chi­na, in Africa and the Andes, with audi­ences that seem to sit breath­less for most of two and a half hours.” Does Ma’s belief that Bach can “save the world” seem a lit­tle Pollyan­ish? Per­haps. But what oth­er piece of music, and what oth­er per­former, has attained such uni­ver­sal good­will? Learn more about Ma’s Bach Project here and see him play the Pre­lude for the whole world in the video above.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Leonard Bern­stein Intro­duces 7‑Year-Old Yo-Yo Ma: Watch the Young­ster Per­form for John F. Kennedy (1962)

Yo-Yo Ma Plays an Impromp­tu Per­for­mance in Vac­cine Clin­ic After Receiv­ing 2nd Dose

Yo-Yo Ma Per­forms the First Clas­si­cal Piece He Ever Learned: Take a 12-Minute Men­tal Health Break and Watch His Mov­ing “Tiny Desk” Con­cert

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Bill Gates Lets College Students Download a Free Digital Copy of His Book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

FYI: Ear­li­er this year, Bill Gates pub­lished the New York Times best­seller, How to Avoid a Cli­mate Dis­as­ter: The Solu­tions We Have and the Break­throughs We Need. In the book, Gates explains why we need to work toward net-zero emis­sions of green­house gas­es, and how we can achieve this goal.  Giv­en that this respon­si­bil­i­ty will even­tu­al­ly fall to a younger gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers, Gates has decid­ed to make a dig­i­tal copy of his book avail­able to every col­lege and uni­ver­si­ty stu­dent in the world.

The book can be down­loaded an .epub file which can be opened in a com­pat­i­ble e‑reader appli­ca­tion on many devices. An email address, along with a name of college/university, is required. Find the book here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Bill Gates Describes His Biggest Fear: “I Rate the Chance of a Wide­spread Epi­dem­ic Far Worse Than Ebo­la at Well Over 50 Per­cent” (2015)

Take Big His­to­ry: A Free Short Course on 13.8 Bil­lion Years of His­to­ry, Fund­ed by Bill Gates

Bill Gates Rec­om­mends 5 Thought-Pro­vok­ing Books to Read This Sum­mer

How Bill Gates Reads Books

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Why–and When–Did the United States Turn Against Science?: Views from Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Margaret Atwood & More

When did Amer­i­cans lose the abil­i­ty to think and act ratio­nal­ly? Or did they ever, on the whole, have such abil­i­ty? These are the ques­tions at the heart of the Big Think video above, a super­cut of inter­view clips from pub­lic intel­lec­tu­als — Neil DeGrasse, Michael Sher­mer,  Tyson, Kurt Ander­sen, Bill Nye, and Mar­garet Atwood — opin­ing on the state of the nation’s intel­lec­tu­al health. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, the prog­no­sis is not good, as Carl Sagan pre­dict­ed over 25 years ago.

Of inter­est here is the diag­no­sis: How did the coun­try get to a place where it is unable to defend itself against a dead­ly virus because mil­lions of cit­i­zens refuse to take it seri­ous­ly? How did Amer­i­cans let Exxon wreck the cli­mate because mil­lions of Amer­i­cans refused to believe in human-caused cli­mate change? How did a failed mogul and real­i­ty TV star become pres­i­dent? How did Qanon, Piz­za­gate…. How did any of it hap­pen?

The roots are long and deep, says writer and for­mer host of NPR’s Stu­dio 360, Kurt Ander­sen, who has spent a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time think­ing about the cul­ture of Amer­i­can irra­tional­ism. On the one hand, “Amer­i­cans have always been mag­i­cal thinkers and pas­sion­ate believ­ers in the untrue,” from the time of the Puri­tans, who were not per­se­cut­ed refugees so much as fanat­ics no one in Eng­land could stand. And the prob­lem is even old­er than the country’s found­ing, Ander­sen argues in his book Fan­ta­sy­land: How Amer­i­ca Went Hay­wire: A 500-Year His­to­ry — it dates to the foun­da­tions of the mod­ern world.

On the oth­er hand, and some­what con­tra­dic­to­ri­ly, it was those Puri­tans again who kept the worst of things in check. “We also have the virtues embod­ied by the Puri­tans and their sec­u­lar descen­dants,” Ander­sen writes at The Atlantic: “steadi­ness, hard work, fru­gal­i­ty, sobri­ety, and com­mon sense” — such virtues as helped build the coun­try’s sci­en­tif­ic indus­tries and research insti­tu­tions, which have been steadi­ly under­mined by the rel­a­tivism of the 1960s (Ander­sen argues), the effects of the inter­net, and a series of dev­as­tat­ing polit­i­cal choic­es. The delu­sion­al irra­tional­ism was built in — but hyper-indi­vid­u­al­ism and prof­i­teer­ing of the last sev­er­al decades super­charged it. “The Unit­ed States used to be the world leader in tech­nol­o­gy,” says Bill Nye, but no more.

Mar­garet Atwood, who is Cana­di­an not Amer­i­can, talks most­ly about the uni­ver­sal human dif­fi­cul­ty of let­ting go of com­fort­ing core beliefs, and the uses the exam­ple of the out­cry against Dar­win­ian evo­lu­tion. Yet her very pres­ence in the dis­cus­sion will make view­ers think of her most famous nov­el, The Handmaid’s Tale, in which she imag­ined what lies beneath the sup­pos­ed­ly enlight­ened com­mon sense of the coun­try’s gov­ern­ment. The stage was long ago set for a rev­o­lu­tion that could eas­i­ly turn the coun­try against sci­ence, she believed.

As Atwood wrote in 2018 of the novel’s gen­e­sis: “Nations nev­er build appar­ent­ly rad­i­cal forms of gov­ern­ment on foun­da­tions that aren’t there already.… The deep foun­da­tion of the Unit­ed States — so went my think­ing — was not the com­par­a­tive­ly recent 18th-cen­tu­ry Enlight­en­ment struc­tures of the Repub­lic, with their talk of equal­i­ty and their sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State, but the heavy-hand­ed theoc­ra­cy of 17th-cen­tu­ry Puri­tan New Eng­land — with its marked bias against women — which would need only the oppor­tu­ni­ty of a peri­od of social chaos to reassert itself.”

Rather than iden­ti­fy­ing the prob­lems with Puri­tans or 60s hip­pies, Neil DeGrasse Tyson — as he has done through­out his career — dis­cuss­es issues of sci­ence edu­ca­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. On both fronts, there has been some improve­ment. “More jour­nal­ists who are sci­ence flu­ent… are writ­ing about sci­ence than was the case 20 years ago,” he says, “so now I don’t have to wor­ry about the jour­nal­ist miss­ing some­thing fun­da­men­tal.… And [sci­ence] report­ing has been much more accu­rate in recent years, I’m hap­py to report.”

But while the inter­net has ampli­fied our oppor­tu­ni­ties for sci­en­tif­ic lit­er­a­cy, it has also done the oppo­site, gross­ly mud­dy­ing the intel­lec­tu­al waters with mis­in­for­ma­tion and a com­pet­i­tive need to get the sto­ry first. “If it’s not yet ver­i­fied, it’s not there yet.… So be more open about how wrong the thing you’re report­ing on could be, because oth­er­wise you’re doing a dis­ser­vice to the pub­lic. And that dis­ser­vice is that peo­ple out there say, ‘Sci­en­tists don’t know any­thing.’ ”

There are also those who choose to side with hand­ful of con­trar­i­an sci­en­tists who dis­agree with the con­sen­sus. “This is irre­spon­si­ble,” says Tyson. “Plus it means you don’t know how sci­ence works.” Or it means you’re look­ing to con­firm bias­es rather than gen­uine­ly take an inter­est in the sci­en­tif­ic process. For all of their insights, the talk­ing head crit­ics in the video fail to men­tion a pri­ma­ry dri­ver behind so much of the U.S.‘s sci­ence denial­ism, a moti­va­tion as foun­da­tion­al to the coun­try as the Puri­tan’s zealotry: prof­it, at all costs.

Read a tran­script of the video here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties

Carl Sagan Pre­dicts the Decline of Amer­i­ca: Unable to Know “What’s True,” We Will Slide, “With­out Notic­ing, Back into Super­sti­tion & Dark­ness” (1995)

An Ani­mat­ed Mar­garet Atwood Explains How Sto­ries Change with Tech­nol­o­gy

Neil deGrasse Tyson Says This Short Film on Sci­ence in Amer­i­ca Con­tains Per­haps the Most Impor­tant Words He’s Ever Spo­ken

Isaac Asi­mov Laments the “Cult of Igno­rance” in the Unit­ed States (1980)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Elvis’ Three Appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show: Watch History in the Making and from the Waist Up (1956)

Oh, to be in the stu­dio audi­ence of CBS’ Tele­vi­sion City in Hol­ly­wood on Sep­tem­ber 9th, 1956, to see Elvis Presley’s gyrat­ing pelvis rock­et him to super­star­dom on The Ed Sul­li­van Show.

His appear­ance made tele­vi­sion his­to­ry, but 60 mil­lion home view­ers were left to fill in some major blanks, as the ris­ing heart­throb was filmed from the waist up when­ev­er he was in motion.

Sul­li­van had been hes­i­tant to book Elvis, not want­i­ng to court the out­rage the mag­net­ic young singer had sparked in two “sug­ges­tive” appear­ances on The Mil­ton Berle Show ear­li­er that year. Elvis, he told the press, was “not my cup of tea” and “wasn’t fit for fam­i­ly enter­tain­ment.”

Tele­vi­sion host Steve Allen, pre­sum­ably alert to sim­i­lar red flags, attempt­ed to skirt the issue by shoe­horn­ing Elvis into tie and tails to per­form “Hound Dog” to an inat­ten­tive, top-hat­ted bas­set hound.

Elvis was dis­pleased by this jokey spin, but sub­mit­ted, and new­com­er Allen’s rat­ings clob­bered Sullivan’s that week.

Sul­li­van sent Steve Allen a telegram:

Steven Pres­ley Allen, NBC TV, New York City. Stinker. Love and kiss­es. Ed Sul­li­van.

Whether Sul­li­van was throw­ing down a gaunt­let, or deliv­er­ing con­grat­u­la­tions with a side of poor sports­man­ship is some­what unclear, but Sul­li­van was now ready to claim his stake, at ten times the price.

The $5,000 appear­ance fee that had been float­ed pri­or to Elvis’ appear­ance on The Mil­ton Berle Show, had bal­looned to the jaw drop­ping sum of $50,000 for 3 episodes.

Sul­li­van and Presley’s names are for­ev­er linked for that his­toric first appear­ance, but injuries from a car crash knocked the host out of com­mis­sion. Actor Charles Laughton subbed in as host from Sul­li­van’s New York stu­dio, and was charged with ush­er­ing in Elvis’s remote appear­ance in a very par­tic­u­lar way.

As cul­tur­al crit­ic Greil Mar­cus writes:

Pres­ley was the head­lin­er, and a Sul­li­van head­lin­er nor­mal­ly opened the show, but Sul­li­van was bury­ing him. Laughton had to make the moment invis­i­ble: to act as if nobody was actu­al­ly wait­ing for any­thing. He did it instant­ly, with com­plete com­mand, with the sort of tele­vi­sion pres­ence that some have and some — Steve Allen, or Ed Sul­li­van him­self — don’t. It’s a sense of ease, a queru­lous inter­ro­ga­tion of the medi­um itself, affirm­ing one’s own odd, irre­ducible sub­jec­tiv­i­ty against the objec­tiv­i­ty enforced by any sys­tem of rep­re­sen­ta­tions: that is, get­ting it across that at any moment that you might for­get where you are and say what­ev­er comes into your head, which was exact­ly what half the coun­try hoped and half the coun­try feared might be the case with Elvis Pres­ley.

Laughton, who else­where in the show used a read­ing of James Thurber’s Red Rid­ing Hood par­o­dy, “The Lit­tle Girl and the Wolf” to insin­u­ate that “it’s not so easy to fool lit­tle girls nowa­days as it used to be,” set­tled on a non-com­mit­tal “and now, away to Hol­ly­wood to meet Elvis Pres­ley!”

Elvis, clad in a non-threat­en­ing plaid jack­et on a set trimmed with gui­tar-shaped cut outs, thanked Laughton, and wiped his brow:

Wow. This is prob­a­bly the great­est hon­or I’ve ever had in my life. Ah. There’s not much I can say except, it real­ly makes you feel good. We want to thank you from the bot­tom of our heart.

His first num­ber, “Don’t Be Cru­el,” had an imme­di­ate effect on the teenage girls in atten­dance, who knew what they were see­ing.

“Thank you, ladies,” he said, coy­ly acknowl­edg­ing what all knew to be true, before going on to debut the title song of the motion pic­ture he was in town to film, Love Me Ten­der, his first of 31 such vehi­cles.

Disc jock­eys tuned in to tape the unre­leased song for play on their radio shows, shoot­ing pre-sales up to near­ly a mil­lion.

Lat­er in the show Elvis returned to cov­er Lit­tle Richard’s hit, “Ready Ted­dy,” and wish the show’s reg­u­lar host a swift recov­ery. And then:

As a great philoso­pher once said…’You ain’t noth­in’ but a hound dog!’

Cue screams.

A week lat­er, The New York Times’ Jack Gould alleged that in book­ing Elvis, Sul­li­van had failed to “exer­cise good sense and dis­play respon­si­bil­i­ty,” mor­al­iz­ing that “in some ways it was per­haps the most unpleas­ant of (the singer’s) recent three per­for­mances:

Mr. Pres­ley ini­tial­ly dis­turbed adult view­ers — and instant­ly became a mar­tyr in the eyes of his teen- age fol­low­ing — for his striptease behav­ior on last spring’s Mil­ton Berle pro­gram. Then with Steve Allen he was much more sedate. On the Sul­li­van pro­gram he inject­ed move­ments of the tongue and indulged in word­less singing that were sin­gu­lar­ly dis­taste­ful.

At least some par­ents are puz­zled or con­fused by Pres­ley’s almost hyp­not­ic pow­er; oth­ers are con­cerned; per­haps most are a shade dis­gust­ed and con­tent to per­mit the Pres­ley fad to play itself out.

Nei­ther crit­i­cism of Pres­ley nor of the teen-agers who admire him is par­tic­u­lar­ly to the point. Pres­ley has fall­en into a for­tune with a rou­tine that in one form or anoth­er has always exist­ed on the fringe of show busi­ness; in his gyrat­ing fig­ure and sug­ges­tive ges­tures the teen-agers have found some­thing that for the moment seems excit­ing or impor­tant.

Cue more screams.

A month and a half after his first Sul­li­van Show book­ing, Elvis and Sul­li­van met in the New York stu­dio for a fol­low up, along with a chaste youth choir, the Lit­tle Gael­ic Singers, and ven­tril­o­quist Señor Wences(S’alright? S’alright.)

“Don’t Be Cru­el,” “Love Me Ten­der,” and “Hound Dog” were on the menu again, along with a brand new release — “Love Me,” above.

Señor Wences was not the tough act to fol­low here.

The appear­ance result­ed in more wild­ly high rat­ings for Sul­li­van, and a grow­ing aware­ness of the per­ils of rock n’ roll, as embod­ied by Elvis’ well lubri­cat­ed nether regions, which the cam­era, fool­ing no one, again shied from at cru­cial moments.

Cue anoth­er mil­lion teenage fan club enroll­ments, as well as par­ents, cler­gy and oth­er con­cerned cit­i­zens who came togeth­er to burn the singer in effi­gy in Nashville and St. Louis.

Near­ly as notable, from the per­spec­tive of 2021, was the pub­lic ser­vice Elvis per­formed back­stage, allow­ing him­self to be pho­tographed receiv­ing the polio vac­cine, in hopes his legions of admir­ers would fol­low suit.

Elvis’ third vis­it to Sullivan’s show, Jan­u­ary 6th, 1957, would prove to be his last, owing to the astro­nom­i­cal fee his man­ag­er Colonel Tom Park­er set for future tele­vi­sion appear­ances: $300,000 with the promise of two guest spots and an hour-long spe­cial. An attempt to book Elvis for Sullivan’s 10th anniver­sary cel­e­bra­tion, was thwart­ed by the fact that Elvis was abroad, serv­ing in the Army.

Anoth­er mas­sive audi­ence tuned in for anoth­er help­ing of hits — “Hound Dog,” “Love Me Ten­der,” “Heart­break Hotel,” and “Don’t Be Cru­el,” as well as new­er mate­r­i­al — “Too Much” and “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again.”

Between songs, Sul­li­van advised the swoon­ing teenagers to rest their lar­ynx­es and intro­duced Elvis’ per­for­mance of the gospel stan­dard, “Peace in the Val­ley,” by urg­ing view­ers to con­tribute to a Hun­gar­i­an refugee relief fund Elvis sup­port­ed.

While many fans per­sist in the belief that the gospel num­ber was includ­ed as an affec­tion­ate nod to the singer’s beloved moth­er, Gladys, a let­ter from Colonel Parker’s assis­tant to Elvis sug­gests that the choice had more to do with his host:

Mr. Sul­li­van thought it might be very appro­pri­ate for you to sing a hymn or a semi-reli­gious song on the show. You cer­tain­ly can sing a hymn very effec­tive­ly and I think it would make a very strong impres­sion on all the view­ers. It has been sug­gest­ed that a song like ‘Peace in the Val­ley’ might be held in readi­ness. We have obtained the music on this song and are for­ward­ing it to you.”

This time, home view­ers real­ly were left to guess what was going on below the star’s sequined vest and open col­lared blouse, described by Mar­cus as “the out­landish cos­tume of a pasha, if not a harem girl:”

From the make-up over his eyes, the hair falling in his face, the over­whelm­ing­ly sex­u­al cast of his mouth, he was play­ing Rudolph Valenti­no in The Sheik, with all stops out. That he did so in front of the Jor­danaires, who this night appeared as the four squarest-look­ing men on the plan­et, made the per­for­mance even more potent.

Sullivan’s first co-pro­duc­er, Mar­lo Lewis, inti­mat­ed that the deci­sion to for­mal­ize a waist-up pol­i­cy for Elvis’ third vis­it was sparked by a rumor that had dogged his pri­or appear­ances. To wit:

Elvis has been hang­ing a small soft-drink bot­tle from his groin under­neath his pants, and when he wig­gles his leg it looks as though his peck­er reach­es down to his knee! 

Mean­while, it appeared Sul­li­van was no longer will­ing to be lumped in with Elvis’ detrac­tors, clos­ing the show by say­ing:

I want­ed to say to Elvis Pres­ley and the coun­try that this is a real decent, fine boy, and wher­ev­er you go, Elvis, we want to say we’ve nev­er had a pleas­an­ter expe­ri­ence on our show with a big name than we’ve had with you. So now let’s have a tremen­dous hand for a very nice per­son!

Had Elvis won him over, or was it, as cul­tur­al crit­ic Tim Par­rish asserts, that Colonel Park­er, “had threat­ened to remove Elvis from the show if Sul­li­van did not apol­o­gize for telling the press that Elvis’s ‘gyra­tions’ were immoral.”

Watch all of Elvis Pres­ley’s per­for­mances on The Ed Sul­li­van Show in HD here.

For a glimpse of the 1956 Gib­son J‑200 Elvis played in that final appear­ance, and spec­u­la­tion as to whether he crossed paths with fel­low guests Car­ol Bur­nett and Lena Horne, watch Grace­land archivist Ang­ie Marchese’s show and tell of ephemera relat­ed to his stints on the Ed Sul­li­van Show.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Last Great Moment of Elvis Presley’s Musi­cal Career: Watch His Extra­or­di­nary Per­for­mance of “Unchained Melody” (1977)

Elvis Pres­ley Gets the Polio Vac­cine on The Ed Sul­li­van Show, Per­suad­ing Mil­lions to Get Vac­ci­nat­ed (1956)

The Night Ed Sul­li­van Scared a Nation with the Apoc­a­lyp­tic Ani­mat­ed Short, A Short Vision (1956)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

How Randy Bachman Found His Stolen Favorite Guitar After 45 Years, with the Help of Facial-Recognition Software

Facial-recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy has come into its own in recent decades, though its imag­ined large-scale uses do tend to sound trou­bling­ly dystopi­an. Still, some of its actu­al suc­cess sto­ries have been pleas­ing indeed, few of them so much as the one briefly told in the video above by Bach­man Turn­er Over­drive’s Randy Bach­man. Its pro­tag­o­nist is not Bach­man him­self but one of his gui­tars: a 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins, a mod­el named after the star Nashville gui­tarist. “This is the first real­ly good expen­sive elec­tric gui­tar I got,” he says, adding that he “played it on many, many BTO hits, and in 1975 it was stolen from a Hol­i­day Inn hotel room in Toron­to.”

“The dis­ap­pear­ance trig­gered a decades-long search,” writes Todd Coyne in a fea­ture at CTV News. “Bach­man enlist­ed the help of the RCMP” — also known at the Moun­ties — “the Ontario Provin­cial Police and vin­tage instru­ment deal­ers across Cana­da and the Unit­ed States. It also trig­gered what Bach­man now rec­og­nizes as a mid-life cri­sis,” result­ing in his even­tu­al pur­chase of 385 Gretsch gui­tars. Those includ­ed a dozen 6120s from the 1950s, but none of them were the one he bought at age 20 from Win­nipeg Piano. He must have giv­en up hope by the time the mes­sage arrived: “I found your Gretsch gui­tar in Tokyo.”

The sender, an old neigh­bor of Bach­man’s, had in fact found the Gretsch on Youtube. In the video below, made for Christ­mas 2019, a Japan­ese gui­tarist named Takeshi plays “Rockin’ Around the Christ­mas Tree” on an orange 6120 that Bach­man imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­nized as his long-lost favorite instru­ment. Coyne writes that the neigh­bor “had used some old pho­tographs of the gui­tar and rejigged some facial-recog­ni­tion soft­ware to iden­ti­fy and detect the unique wood-grain pat­terns and lines of cracked lac­quer along the instrument’s body,” as seen in the orig­i­nal video for BTO’s “Lookin’ Out for #1.” Sub­se­quent­ly, he “ran scans of this unique pro­file against every image he could find of an orange 1957 Chet Atkins gui­tar post­ed online over the last decade and a half.”

Per­sis­tence, at least in this case, paid off. But since Takeshi felt near­ly as strong a con­nec­tion to the gui­tar as Bach­man did, an arrange­ment had to be made. With the Japan­ese wife of his son Tal (also a musi­cian, best known for the 1990s hit “She’s So High”) act­ing as inter­preter, he nego­ti­at­ed with Takeshi the terms of an exchange. As Bach­man tells it, “He said he would give me back my gui­tar, but I had to find him its twin”: the same mod­el — of which only 35 were made in 1957 — in mint con­di­tion with all the same parts and no addi­tion­al mod­i­fi­ca­tions. And for a mere thir­ty times the $400 price he orig­i­nal­ly paid, he even­tu­al­ly found that twin. Now all that remains, as soon trav­el restric­tions ease between the U.S. and Japan, is for Bach­man and Takeshi to meet up at the Gretsch fac­to­ry in Nagoya, play a gig togeth­er, and take care of busi­ness.

via Boing­Bo­ing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Gui­tarist Randy Bach­man Demys­ti­fies the Open­ing Chord of The Bea­t­les’ “A Hard Day’s Night”

Eric Clap­ton Tries Out Gui­tars at Home and Talks About the Bea­t­les, Cream, and His Musi­cal Roots

Gui­tar Sto­ries: Mark Knopfler on the Six Gui­tars That Shaped His Career

The Cap­ti­vat­ing Art of Restor­ing Vin­tage Gui­tars

Hear Joni Mitchell’s Ear­li­est Record­ing, Redis­cov­ered After More than 50 Years

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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